Beware of Scams and Fraud during Medicare Open Enrollment

by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW

It is that time of year again, open enrollment for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans takes place from October 15 to December 7. Because it is so important that you review your Medicare Part D plans and your Medicare Advantage plan (if you have one) every year, I am repeating this column from last year.
This is your opportunity to review your current health needs and make adjustments based on your needs and your healthcare costs. But it is also an opportunity for scam artists and unscrupulous people to take advantage of you so here are some pointers on what you should and should not do.
You should always shop for a drug plan each year. Plans change more than the cost of their premiums; they also change the drugs they cover. You need to make sure you are getting the best price for your medication by going to http://www.medicare.gov for your search. Get a family member to help if you don’t use the Internet or call the Area Agency on Aging at 832-393-4301 and speak to a qualified Benefits Counselor.
What you should NEVER do, is give personal information over the phone or in person to a stranger just because they are telling you Medicare is changing. All the information you need to now from Medicare comes to you in your Medicare and You Handbook every October. There are no “new” Medicare cards, there are no “new” drug cards, so hang up if you get one of these calls.
You should also evaluate your overall health care costs and decide which is best for you, traditional Medicare or enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. When it comes to Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare has strict marketing guidelines that insurance agents and plans must follow. Agents and or brokers:
• Cannot say they are from Medicare or imply that Medicare endorses them,
• Cannot solicit by going door-to-door,
• Cannot send unwanted emails or voicemails or call you unless you have asked to be called.
• Cannot approach you in a parking lot, lobby, mall, or other common areas.
• Cannot approach you in an exam room, dialysis center or pharmacy counter.
• Cannot provide meals at sales presentations.
• Cannot conduct marketing or sales activities at an educational event.
• Cannot market non-health related products such as life insurance during educational sessions.
• Cannot offer you a gift worth more than $15.

You should also be aware of changes to Medicare in The Affordable Care Act. Benefits rolled out in 2012 but, remember to watch out for scam artists. Change brings confusion and scam artists are standing by to capitalize on that confusion.
If you are unsure about a phone call or want to check out a company, please call me first at 713-341-6184. If you need assistance to enroll in a Part D plan, you can contact the Area Agency on Aging by calling the United Way Information and Referral Hotline at 211 and asking for the local number. We want you to be safe…not sorry.

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